The day after the Bowie softball team's season came to an end with a loss in the Maryland 4A semifinals, Bulldogs Coach Sarah Bible was moving on to the next part of her softball calendar, coaching a travel team. Although Bowie's bid for its first state title since 1980 was unsuccessful, Bible was encouraged when she ran into some of her fellow coaches, who praised the Bulldogs' ability and effort.

As Bible pointed out, after running the table in the regular season, defending its Prince George's County title and then winning the Maryland 4A South Region title, the Bulldogs (21-1) had a successful season.

"We only lost one game," Bible said. "I don't care what league you're in, that's still pretty tough to do. The girls wanted to win the county, they wanted to win the region, they wanted to win states. The only thing missing is winning states. Two out of three isn't bad."

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, perhaps their lightly contested run through the Prince George's 4A League ended up costing them. Bowie faced few top pitchers during the season, so its hitters were forced to make quite an adjustment before their 12-0 loss to Damascus on Friday.

"Those teams face that type of competition of a regular basis; we don't," Bible said. "If I had the same group of kids to face that same type of competition regularly, I think they would be as good or better. It's not an on-off switch. That's a confidence factor. Hitting is so mental. All those other teams build their way [through the season] and with us, it's hit or miss whether we have to face a strong pitcher."

Bible scheduled preseason scrimmages against teams with top pitchers, such as eventual Maryland 4A champion North County (whom the Bulldogs beat, 5-4) and Severna Park, which featured All-Met pitcher Kaila Jenkins.

However, in the 2 1/2 months between those scrimmages and the state tournament, Bowie's hitters largely were able to tee off on overmatched pitchers. Against Damascus, the Bulldogs had runners on base a few times in the early innings but could not score. Damascus took an early lead on a three-run homer and Bowie never caught up, though it stayed close until things unraveled in a nine-run sixth inning.

"Other than the last inning, I think my kids were fighting and still thinking they could win it, which is all you can do," Bible said. "The thing I'm most disappointed in, other than losing, is the score. I don't think we should have been run-ruled. But I'm not going to trade my kids. They were outstanding all season. A lot of them had personal and team goals and they accomplished most of them."

Now, the focus turns to next season. The Bulldogs must replace second-team All-Met pitcher Christina Gosweiler, as well as infielders Julie Hearn and Erin Tyler. However, shortstop Erin King, who missed most of this season with a knee injury, will return, as does freshman Katie Nalley, who filled in during King's absence. The entire outfield also is back, though Valerie D'Agostino and Marianne Johnson are candidates to pitch next season, Bible said.

"We've got to start working again," Bible said. "It's a disappointment they don't get to play that last game. That's what I told them. I knew a loss had to come because we were undefeated. But considering they could have only played one more game, that's a pretty good season."

Bowie's Christina Gosweiler reacts to walking in a run during last week's 4A state semifinal loss to Damascus at Randazzo Field in Severn. The Bulldogs finished the season 21-1.